The Lone Ranger

July 5, 2013 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Johnny Depp, Armie Hammer, William Fichtner
Directed by: Gore Verbinski (“Rango”)
Written by: Justin Haythe (“Snitch”), Ted Elliott (“Pirates of the Caribbean” trilogy),  Terry Rossio (“Pirates of the Caribbean” trilogy)

Every so often, one reads articles about a film, sees the cast, watches trailers and marketing campaigns and can smell a box-office bomb from a mile away. Remember last year’s “John Carter?” An ambitious project based on a nearly 100-year-old book, Disney spent approximately $250 million on the project. Starring in the lead role was an actor whose biggest role was a strong albeit supporting role on TV’s “Friday Night Lights.” The results were predictably disastrous with mixed results from critics. Even worse, the film earned a domestic gross of only $73 million prompting Disney to publicly blame the film for their earnings loss that year. Early looks at Disney’s latest film, “The Lone Ranger,” caused many to draw parallels to “Carter” and wonder if the bloated failed blockbuster will become something of an annual Disney tradition.

In “The Lone Ranger,” district attorney John Reid (Armie Hammer) comes home to visit his brother (James Badge Dale), who is a Texas Ranger, and is deputized to help them hunt down a dangerous outlaw (William Fichtner). Soon after, the team is ambushed and Reid finds himself the only ranger left not riddled with bullets. Left for dead, Reid joins up with a revenge-seeking Indian named Tonto (Johnny Depp), disguises himself with a black mask, and goes in search of the ruthless criminal who killed his brother in hopes of bringing him to justice.

At this point in his career, it seems like Depp has agreed to sign onto any movie where he is allowed to wear make-up and act goofy. As Tonto, Depp is less than inspiring, though his performance is not nearly as racist as it had potential for. Depp’s screentime is relegated to unfunny one-liners, weird stares and making dim-witted faces in a failed attempt to capture the fun best seen in the original “Pirates of the Caribbean.” Unfortunately, Depp’s gag is getting tired and a return to traditional acting would be more than welcome. As for Hammer, he simply doesn’t bring the onscreen charisma of a leading man needed for a film like this. His version of Reid as a do-gooder feels blasé and he puts no urgency into the role.

One of the strangest decisions of the film was to tell it through a framing device where a withered old Tonto rehashes his story to a child visiting the museum section of a carnival. It adds absolutely nothing to the narrative and feels shoehorned and awkward each time it is revisited throughout the film. There are some decent set pieces, but overall, even the film’s action sequences are pretty mundane. Like a lot of westerns, there are shootouts and train hopping scenes, but nothing memorable in the way of adventure. At one point late in the film, the familiar sounds of the William Tell Overture crank up during an extended action scene involving runaway trains and the film actually kicks into high gear. Hopes are promptly squashed as the film’s ridiculous tone gets in the way and a child slingshots a grape into Tonto’s mouth.

So let’s recap: the film is based on a character that debuted in 1933, which hasn’t seen a meaningful iteration since the 1950s. One of the film’s major stars (Hammer), while a promising up-and-comer, is nowhere near the level he needs to be to anchor and sell tickets to a tent-pole blockbuster. The film’s budget is also estimated somewhere in the eye-popping $250-million range. Sound familiar?

But the worst offense of all? The film is just flat out bad. It fails not only as a western, but as an action comedy and a good old-fashioned summer family film. Put that and the constant struggle for a consistent tone together and you can see why “The Lone Ranger” is well on its way to being the biggest dud of the year. In the film’s closing moments, Hammer retorts to Depp and asks, “Do you even know what Tonto means in Spanish?” We certainly do, and chances are, some of the folks who greenlit the film at Disney will know soon enough, too.

Armie Hammer – The Lone Ranger

July 5, 2013 by  
Filed under Interviews

Standing on a rickety platform at the edge of a mountain in Utah’s Dead Horse Point State Park, actor and San Antonio business owner Armie Hammer (“The Social Network”) could see straight down into the canyon 2,000 feet below. The shot for the action/adventure film “The Lone Ranger,” in which Hammer plays the title role, was captured from a helicopter that whizzed by the 26-year-old star with such force, it would’ve blown him off if it hadn’t been for the harness strapped to him. Hammer’s wife Elizabeth Chambers, who opened Bird Bakery in Alamo Heights 15 months ago with her husband, stood on the set watching the perilous feat transpire.

“I think she was concerned,” Hammer, 26, told me during a phone interview earlier in June to talk about “The Lone Ranger,” which hit theaters July 3. “But we had a really good crew standing around telling her, ‘Don’t worry! Nothing’s gonna happen to him!’”

The rising movie star, fledgling stuntman, pastry aficionado, and all-around nice guy talks with me about Texas and Tonto.

I just took a trip to Bird Bakery this weekend and was a little disappointed there weren’t any “Lone Ranger”-themed cupcakes. What gives?

(Laughs) We have to wait until the movie comes out! “Lone Ranger” cupcakes coming soon. We have to pace ourselves.

You and Elizabeth seem to really be making things work here in San Antonio with the new business. Do you feel like the community has embraced you?

Oh, absolutely. We couldn’t appreciate the entire city of San Antonio more. Everyone has been so friendly and welcoming. We really couldn’t have asked for a better experience.

Now be honest, how much of taking on the role of the Lone Ranger, who is an ex-Texas Ranger, was due to the fact that you’re back to being a Texan and wanted more street cred?

(Laughs) Definitely all of it. I had lived in Texas before [Dallas]. I was very familiar with the lore of the Texas Rangers, so when I got the role I was like, “This is great!” The first thing I did was call my father-in-law in San Antonio, who knows everything about Texas history, and was like, “Bill, tell me everything!” He gave me a full rundown.

In “The Lone Ranger,” you’re taking on a pretty iconic character that has been around since the 1930s. Did you consider his long history when you joined the film?

Most definitely. I really had to pay attention to the long history because that is what made this project what it is. There are generations of people who hear the William Tell Overture and go right back to their childhood, whether it was sitting in front of a television or radio. We really wanted to pay attention to all that history so we could bring authenticity into this new adaptation.

We’re in a cinematic era where superhero movies are a rampant part of the industry. Do you hope people will consider the Lone Ranger a breath of fresh air since he’s a hero that doesn’t rely on superpowers?

You nailed it. He’s not a superhero. A superhero doesn’t have to eat. A superhero doesn’t get tired or weak. A hero knows he might get hurt, but he does it anyway.

In the past, Native American groups have considered Tonto politically incorrect. Did you worry about that or the fact Johnny Depp is a non-Native American playing the role?

I didn’t really think about it. When we were making the movie, it was just a bunch of actors — white guys, native guys — having a great time. As far as Johnny goes, he is 100 percent Comanche now. He’s been adopted by the tribe. He also has Cherokee blood in him. I don’t think they made a bad choice.

How much of reviving this character includes introducing him to a new generation?

We’d love to introduce him to a new generation. There are so many people who grew up with “The Lone Ranger,” but their kids might not know about it. If they tried to show their kids the originals today, they would probably be bored. We wanted to come up with a way to tell this great story and have it appeal to them.